Getting married should be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, but for some Muslim brides the fairytale can suddenly come to a shocking end.
Rukhsana Noor and Habiba Jaan both found themselves homeless and hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt after they learning that their Sharia marriages were not recognised under UK law.
Both women’s stories are told in a new Channel 4 documentary, The Truth About Muslim Marriage, which exposes the plight of women who discover they have no legal rights after their ‘marriage’ falls apart.
Habiba, a mother of four, found out that she was never legally married to her husband because they’d never registered the marriage. When she begged him for a civil ceremony she discovered that he was actually legally married to someone else.
And thus, obviously, nor is polygamy.
This isn’t, either, some mark of the oppression of Muslims or anything. It is the civil marriage which is the legal part, not the religious one. The standard CoE wedding, when the five (? priest, couple, two witnesses) go off stage for 5 minutes is when the marriage, in the law, actually takes place. The rest is whatever we want to call it but it ain’t the legal part of it all.
I’m actually quite keen on the Portuguese system. Any ceremony you like, anywhere, why the hell not. But if you want the legal protections and rights of a legal marriage then you have to, without exception, rock up to the civil registrar and go through the same process as absolutely everyone else. The advantage being that everyone really does therefore know what’s a legal marriage.
I’m even happy with the idea of no legal recognition of marriage at all on absurdly libertarian grounds but agree that’s just not ever going to happen.